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Parliament proceedings | Lok Sabha passes FCRA Bill

Nityanand Rai. File

Nityanand Rai. File

The Lok Sabha passed the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 on Monday even as the Opposition raised concerns that the legislation may be used to target political opponents and religious minorities.

Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, who introduced the Bill on behalf of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, defended making Aadhaar a mandatory identification document for all the office bearers of an NGO or an association seeking foreign donations.

He said the 2018 Supreme Court order allowed the government to make a separate law in areas where Aadhar card is required. “A law can be brought to make Aadhar mandatory. Why some functionaries can hide their identity,” Mr. Rai asked.

Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) attacked the government on limiting administrative expenses drawn from foreign donations to 20% as against the current 50%.

Also read: Government tables Bill to amend Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act

“How have you reached this magic figure? Are you going to fix the salaries of NGO employees now? What is next? fixing salaries of CEOs? I request the central government to stop bulldozing people who do good work. There may be a bad apple among the NGOs, but there are a hundred others doing good work,” Ms Sule said.

Gaurav Gogoi of Congress said the Bill aimed at curbing political dissent and due to the 20% cap, many NGOs will shut shop and many people will become jobless.

Parliament proceedings live | September 21, 2020

Mr. Rai said justified the amendment to cut administrative expenses saying many NGOs use the donations for personal use such as buying cars and installing air conditioners.

Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also said there is a political agenda behind the legislation.

Double standards

“On one hand the government invites foreign funds, but when such funds come for educational and charitable purposes, it is prevented. PM Modi said in 2016 that NGOs are conspiring against us to remove us from power. Your intention is to exempt PM CARES Fund from scrutiny,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

Pointing a paradox, Mahua Moitra of Trinamool Congress said, “Why this hypocricy? Why go after small fry? You allowed political parties to receive foreign funds from Indian registered foreign companies through electoral bonds by retrospectively repealing a 1976 law.”

Responding to the charge that the Bill would hit the funds being received by educational institutions being run by the Christian community, Mr. Rai said the government is not against any religion. “This Bill is to ensure that the money being contributed from abroad is not misused”.

Anto Antony of Congress claimed that the Bill was brought to target minorities, adding that all Christian charities are not indulging in conversion. “These charity institutions have uplifted the poorest of poor,” Mr. Antony said.

Exclusions

The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country. The Act, first enacted in 1976 was amended in 2010 when a slew of new measures were taken by the Union Home Ministry to regulate foreign donations.

The amended Bill includes “public servant” and “corporation owned or controlled by the Government” among the list of entities not eligible to receive foreign donations. Mr. Rai said the definition has been expanded to include anyone who receives remuneration from the exchequer. The others not allowed to receive such funds are journalists, judges and government servants.

Mr. Rai said that foreign contribution bank accounts can be opened anywhere and not only restricted to State Bank of India in Delhi.


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 6:13:17 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parliament-proceedings-lok-sabha-passes-fcra-bill/article32662269.ece